Utah Jazz small forward Joe Ingles has raised concerns about the safety of a return for play for himself and other at-risk NBA members like San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich
Getting the NBA to return to play is no small venture. It will involve coordinating lodging, testing, food, practice facilities, a suitable broadcast facility, and hundreds of other considerations. But Utah Jazz small forward Joe Ingles recently made the point that none of that matters if there aren’t assurances that he and other at-risk NBA members like San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich aren’t assured of their safety.
All evidence we have seen to date indicates that while most healthy players in the age range of your typical NBA player could withstand a bout with COVID-19, there are several groups associated with the NBA that do not have such a good chance of fending off the disease. These groups include but are not limited to: those over the age of 60, those with underlying medical conditions, and those with weakened immune systems.
Ingles, who has a four-year-old son with a weakened immune system, recently spoke with Peter Mitchell of the Australian Associated Press and said he is prepared to “walk away, fly to Australia and never play another game in my life and be very content” if that is what it takes to ensure that his family is not put at risk. This comes on the heels of news that the NBA is considering resuming play and franchises around the country are starting to open practice facilities.
Ingles would go on to say that it’s still a decision he has yet to make but reiterated that the health and safety of his family is his first and foremost concern.
“As for basketball, it’s a bit more difficult, but I think that as we go ahead and find out more information about it, it will be easier to make a decision. But I am in no way willing to risk my children, and Renae, and everything else, to go play basketball.”
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is among at-risk NBA coaches
Ingles isn’t alone in his predicament. Larry Nance Jr. of the Cleveland Cavaliers lives with Chron’s disease and falls into the at-risk group, as do several head coaches like Gregg Popovich, Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, and Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle due to their age.
The health and safety of their players and coaches must be, and surely is, the preeminent concern of the NBA when they’re considering a potential return to play. It would be both unethical and a terrible look for the NBA to ask players and coaches to play in an environment where their safety is not guaranteed. Unfortunately, a 100 percent guarantee of safety from a virus such as COVID-19 is almost impossible.
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This means players and coaches may have to make their own decisions regarding their own return to play. That might be an easier decision for coaches like Popovich and players like Nance who are on teams with slim or nonexistent post-season aspirations but it’s a more complicated decision for those on teams with title aspirations.
It could be an easier decision for coaches, they could explore coaching from a press box where their exposure is more limited, but for players like Ingles who would be up close and in contact with dozens of others on a day to day basis the risk is considerably higher and the decision seems easier to make. Ingles seemed unflinching in his resolve, title hopes or not he’s making the right decision as a father and husband and putting the health and safety of his family first.
While Ingles has a more direct relation to someone in an at-risk group there is no telling exactly how many NBA players and coaches come in indirect contact with someone who is at greater risk of succumbing to COVID-19. The health and safety of players, coaches, and those they may come in contact with needs to be the primary concern of the NBA in any discussions around a potential return to play.